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Air Force officials take delivery of first MC-12

WICHITA, Kan. (AFNS) -- Winning the fight from up high just got more advanced since the recent delivery of the MC-12 Project Liberty special mission turboprop aircraft. 

The MC-12 is the first of its kind for the Air Force and is set to venture downrange in May. Lt. Gen. David Deptula, Air Force Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance and Brig. Gen. Blair E. Hansen, director of ISR Capabilities took delivery of the 16,500-pound special mission aircraft at the Hawker Beechcraft Corporation. 

The Project Liberty program is part of the Secretary of Defense Robert Gates' ISR task force and derives from his direction to provide enhanced ISR capabilities to U.S. Central Command. 

The complexities of today's battlefield call for sophisticated capabilities and A2 intelligence officials said the MC-12 delivers. 

"The MC-12 brings additional electro-optical and infrared full-motion video and signals intelligence to troops on the ground," General Hansen said. "The initial MX-15i system to be installed on the first eight aircraft features an infrared pointer, which allows the aircraft to signal an object or building to a soldier wearing special goggles on the ground," he said. The general added that a planned future upgrade will provide a state-of-the-art laser designator and allow it to target a position with formidable precision. 

According to Hawker Beechcraft officials, the aircraft can provide more than eight hours of endurance and has the flexibility to loiter low and slow or cruise at 300 knots and 35,000 feet. Taking off with full fuel and payload, the MC-12 is uniquely equipped to perform medium-altitude surveillance for more than seven hours, fly back 100 nautical miles and still land with more than 45 minutes of fuel on board. 

The MC-12 will augment unmanned systems already flying reconnaissance patrols over Iraq and Afghanistan. 

"We think this is a core mission of the United States Air Force--medium altitude ISR," General Hansen said. "Through their advanced technology and reliability, these aircraft will increase the number of combat air patrols downrange." 

Secretary Gates gave the green light to procure 37 MC-12 aircraft by the end of 2009. 

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